The Writers Guild of America has released an additional set of guidelines for audio fiction writers as part of the union’s ongoing nationwide strike, advising writers to avoid working on projects that could be used by studios to circumvent the strike action.
The WGA 2023 strike began at the start of May and is still ongoing, after negotiations with major studios like Netflix, Amazon and Apple under the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to produce a favourable contract.
This is the first WGA strike that has included fiction podcast writers, with the last strike occurring 15 years ago, before the rise of commercial podcasting. As part of the strike’s official rules, participating writers are barred from working on “fiction podcasts that would be covered by a WGA contract”, but the additional guidelines have been designed to clarify the position of podcasts in relation to the strike.
“The WGA is not interested in punishing or banning writers for finding work in fiction podcasting during the strike,” the union stated, “only in avoiding podcasts being used as a loophole for TV and film studios to develop new projects while they are being struck.”
Although the WGA cannot directly discipline non-members, the guidelines state that writers who go against the rules of the strike “can and will” be barred from any future memberships to the Guild and are encouraged to stand in solidarity with fellow writers.
Audio fiction writers are advised to consult with the union’s Audio Alliance before contracting any of their writing services, specifically if the company is planning to use the podcast IP for future TV and film projects.
“A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: ‘Could a TV or film studio use this project to generate money or intellectual property during the strike that they wouldn’t be otherwise?’,” the union stated. “If the answer is no, you’re probably good to go!”
The guidelines also advised that writers are in “safer territory” working on projects that are already in development during the strike, rather than pitching or developing new ideas. Writing and producing independent podcasts, however, is completely allowed, as long as no part of the production involves a company that has been struck.
Independent fiction podcasts are also allowed to join a non-signatory podcast network or collective - a company that has not made an agreement with the WGA and works outside of the strike rules - as long as the network is not exploiting the podcast’s IP to use for film or TV. If the network owns a part of the IP, then the writers should consult with Alliance for guidance.
Writers that are exempt from some of the guidelines include staff members that are under a WGA Collective Bargaining Agreement and required to write fiction podcasts as part of their job, such as Gimlet, Ringer, and Parcast employees which have no-strike clauses in effect.